Breathitt County flood victim was ‘overwhelmed with loss,’ friends say

Breathitt Co. flood-related death raises mental health concerns
Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 6:08 PM EDT
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BREATHITT COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - Governor Beshear said the death toll, more than two weeks after the flooding in eastern Kentucky, is up to 39.

We’re learning more about that 39th victim. Tony Calhoun was from Breathitt County, and a well-known filmmaker in the area. His death is the second we know of to come in the aftermath of the flooding.

Family members tell us Calhoun died by suicide. Like many in eastern Kentucky, he lost everything in the flood.

“It’s heartbreaking, and what’s sad is I’m sure it’s not going to be the last story you’ll hear like this,” friend Mike Shouse said.

His family and friends are devastated by the loss.

“Tony... It’s hard to talk about Tony. To sum him up in a word, he was special. He was different. If Tony was around, he was the center of attention. All eyes were on Tony at all times,” Shouse said.

Shouse worked closely with Calhoun on many of his films.

“He was that guy that should’ve been in Hollywood. But he wouldn’t. He stayed there and took care of his parents and he was always there for friends and family,” Shouse said.

Shouse said Calhoun lost everything in the flood.

“Thousands and thousands of dollars’ worth of stuff he’d been collecting his whole life, that was going to be his future, his retirement, but you know the things that he loved most, his house was packed. So to think he not only lost his home, but he lost everything he had,” Shouse said.

Experts said loss like this can have a significant behavioral health impact.

“Folks, whenever they feel completely overwhelmed, when they feel like everything that they’ve worked for has been lost, that is despair that many of us can’t even imagine,” said Brian Myers, the system director at the Appalachian Regional Healthcare Psychiatric Center.

Myers said if you’re struggling, you should reach out for help.

“Use the 988 hotline to be able to connect to resources. Cause there are lots of resources out there both to help with those mental health challenges but also to help folks rebuild their lives and suicide is never the option,” Myers said.

Myers recommends checking in on loved ones regularly, especially in the weeks following a traumatic event. He said to watch for signs that they might be struggling, such as withdrawing from things they typically enjoy or isolating themselves.

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